AirTalk for June 7, 2012

Ongoing economic woes and dealing with debt collectors, legitimate or otherwise

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke listens to questions during a hearing of the Joint Economic Committee on Capitol Hill June 7, 2012 in Washington, DC.

In case you were wondering, the economy still isn’t doing so hot. This is no breaking news, but what you may not know is that economists are becoming more fearful about financial recovery for the country. With opposing camps of free marketers and regulation proponents becoming more divided with each new jobs report, the situation is reaching a fever pitch.

Feeling the heat the most might be Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who testified today on Capitol Hill regarding the issue. His remarks landed somewhere between muddled and murky, essentially saying that monetary policy at the Federal Reserve level is not a “panacea,” and that he’d like Congress to start implementing broad policies to relieve some of his organization’s burden. He said the situation was not as bad as the one in Greece, but that the country should not grow complacent.

But Bernanke isn’t the only one shifting in the hot seat. Millions of Americans out there are now getting those daily, and irritating, calls from debt collectors. When times were good, people borrowed liberally, and now the reality is that lending companies want their money (plus interest) back, and the borrowers, in most cases, simply don’t have it. The only thing worse than getting a call from a debt collector, it seems, would be getting a call from abusive “phantom” debt collectors.

That’s right, overseas call centers with ties to organized crime in India are perpetuating a nationwide scam in the U.S. And they’re bilking Americans out of millions of dollars they don’t actually owe. When you’re in debt, you’re vulnerable, and often so in over your head that you can’t tell the bad debt collectors from the good ones (if there is such a thing).

When dealing with legitimate debt collectors, what rights do you have? How can you tell if you’re being scammed for money you never borrowed in the first place? What are your tips for alleviating the situation, whether that be avoiding phone calls or aggressively paying down debt?

Guests:

Tom Pahl, Assistant Director of the Division of Financial Practices, Federal Trade Commission

Liz Weston, Personal Finance Columnist, MSN, Author of “Your Credit Score”


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